Winter can be one of the most beautiful times in the Canadian Rockies and I want to give you some inspiration to get out the door and begin capturing amazing photographs in and around the Canmore area of the Bow Valley. Here are my top 5 winter photography locations in the area although these can be applied in any season (use the google maps link to see where each location is on a map);
1) Benchlands Trail & the hoodoos
This location offers the grandview of Canmore up close from right in town. It works especially well for night photography or at blue hour when you can highlight the town’s lights beneath the mountains. At the Banff end of this elevated trail you lose a little elevation and get up close to a few of Canmore’s hoodoos, or eroded pillars. Use them as a foreground but make sure to stay off them, they are fragile! (difficulty: easy)
2) The hillsides by the Alpine Club of Canada
This location is less visited by photographers but I suggest you go here after heavy snow. The image at the beginning of this blog post was made there. The trails are significant in the area so enjoy exploring. A few of them are closed in winter to give wildlife space so respect those closures if you come upon one. Bring ice cleats in case as this area is hilly and snowshoes if there has been a lot of fresh snow. Park before you reach the Alpine Club of Canada (ACC) on the side of the road and walk up to the ACC to access the trails. (difficulty: moderate)
3) The “engine” bridge
Almost a secret spot in Canmore, the engine bridge was originally used in the town’s coal mining operations by Canadian Pacific Rail. It is now a pedestrian/bike bridge that allows for an amazing view of the Three Sisters, and the Lawrence Grassi (Ehagay Nakoda) range including Ha Ling Peak. The Bow River is a great foreground and steam rises off it on cold days adding atmosphere. Go in the morning at sunrise as the angle of the light sidelights the mountains beautifully. (difficulty: easy)
4) The iconic Three Sisters view
The classic scene that most photographers shoot when they come to Canmore. It’s a very short walk off the 1A Highway (Bow Valley trail). Park at the off leash dog park and cross the highway, following the creek bed for 5 minutes until it opens up. This is where most people stop and shoot reflections of the mountains in a pool. This will be frozen in winter but I suggest exploring further in any season as there are many more unique angles to be found ahead of this location towards the Bow River and Three Sisters. (difficulty: easy-moderate)
5) Ha Ling, EEOR, Grassi Knob & the Lady Mac platform
These high points offer birds eye views of the valley and I highly recommend you visit atleast one of them. In winter they can be dangerous and within avalanche terrain but often they are safe, strenuous half day trips – you need to be able to determine which it is before you go by gathering information from other parties, checking weather reports and always staying within your comfort zone & abilities. One place you can seek advice and current conditions is through the facebook group, ‘Scrambling in the Canadian Rockies’. Go with a partner and bring microspikes. See the day-to-night timelapse I made from the summit of Ha-Ling peak below. (difficulty: hard)
Click HERE to pinpoint the locations using google maps and click the custom markers I have created for additional information.
** Bonus location ideas: Grassi Lakes ice waterfall, trapped ice bubbles at Gap Lake or Spray Lake, Harvie Heights wanderings – there are elevated viewpoints hidden throughout.
** TIP: Download the app, “The Photographers Ephemeris”, and enable its add-on, “Skyfire”. This will show you updated and surprisingly accurate sunrise and sunset potential for the upcoming days which is very useful as a motivator on cold winter mornings! Have your gear packed the night before to make things easier on yourself. That will allow you to focus on last minute location fine tuning according to what the weather is doing.
Share your favorite areas for winter photography around Canmore and the Bow Valley in the comments and sign up to my mailing list for information about future workshops in this area.